15 Jul Aren’t Online Wills As Good As Anything You Attorneys Write? Justin Crain, Partner
The internet has changed almost every aspect of our lives, some for the better, and some for worse.
I read an article about a family in Arkansas that built a “3,500-square-foot, five-bedroom abode with a three-car garage and a two-story treehouse” using only online tutorials she found on YouTube. So, if someone built a house themselves with only online videos, can’t you just create your own legal estate documents online? Clearly you can create something online, but the better question to ask is what will those documents do after your death?
Every provider of “legal” self-help information has a disclaimer (typically in small print at the bottom of their website) that states that they are not providing your legal advice or legal work and that nothing that you provide through their self-help services is protected by attorney-client privilege or as legal work product. Why would they state this? Because they are not actually providing legal services, and they are under no obligation to ensure that what you receive meets any legal standard. As a result, online “legal” self-help is generic and does not meet any state-specific rules nor does it necessarily meet your specific needs and goals as an individual.
The last client that came into our office with an “online-will” would have been better off if her deceased husband had left no will at all. Because it was not state-specific and because he had not received any legal advice in the process, his will set in motion requirements for the longest and most expensive probate process that Texas has because it was missing the language required to allow for a shortened process approved by the state. The will didn’t have language that would have allowed for bond to be waived. It did not include language that could have prevented witnesses from needing to come to court to prove that he had written the will and was of sound mind. This client’s husband got something that was more difficult to carry out than if he had just left no will at all.
You can build a house watching only online videos instead of working with an architect and experienced builders and you can create “legal” self-help documents online instead of working with an attorney – but how do you know that you have what you need? How do you know if the house is missing an important piece, if the last will and testament left out provisions that will complicate matters in the future, or if you forgot an important piece of work that will only be apparent later when someone is deep in the problems that those mistakes caused?
Your estate plan addresses the most important things in life, your loved ones and how they will be left to deal with losing you at some point in the future.
What if you get what you paid for? Schedule your consultation to learn about creating the perfect estate plan for your family.